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February 18, 2014 12:31 pm

Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman Says Assimilation Greatest Threat to Judaism

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, on February 18, 2014. Photo: Israel MFA.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, on February 18, 2014. Photo: Israel MFA.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday said assimilation by American Jews is the biggest threat to global Jewry. He also called for the Israeli government to pledge $365 million annually for programs in the diaspora that provide Jewish education and enhance the Jewish connection to Israel.

In a speech to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Lieberman asked leaders to commit to matching the Israeli government grant for new programming in the diaspora that would focus on Jewish continuity. He also called for the creation of a network of high-achieving international Jewish schools and for 3.5 million Jews to emigrate to Israel in the next decade.

Lieberman cited the recent Pew Research Center study that showed diminishing Jewish identification, saying “these statistics demonstrate that the Jews of America are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe.”

“For many years, Israeli officials have called on our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, like many of you gathered here tonight, to donate your time, energies and funds to Israel,” he said. “However, I turn to you today and say that, while we are enormously and forever grateful for your assistance, we believe it is now time to concentrate on the challenges facing your own communities, especially those emanating from the dangerous trends in the Jewish community demonstrated in the recent survey.”

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“It is my strongest belief that the antidote to this rising assimilation, intermarriage and disengagement is education.”

“In order to prevent this tragedy, all Jewish children should have the capacity and capability to attend a school where they will receive an education that will teach them about Jewish history, values and traditions, to treasure their Jewish identity and to have a strong attachment to Israel and Zionism. We need to ensure that Jewish schools will be among the best in the world.”

“We need to create a global network of Jewish schools that are superior in standard to the American and international school network. Only through this effort can we ensure our endurance as a people,” he said.

To fund the initiatives, Lieberman called on the government to allocate funds from its $100 billion annual budget. He said, “I believe that the Israeli Government should contribute $1 million for every day in a calendar year, making a total of $365 million, which we hope you, the Jewish community in the Diaspora, will match for this educational project. This cannot become just another small project and needs to be the central point of partnership between us.”

“These funds will be found in our budgets, it is just a matter of prioritizing Jewish education above all other issues. This must become the most pressing issue on the global Jewish agenda. From my point of view, this is more pressing than any other issue, including the Palestinian negotiations or the Iranian nuclear threat.”

“The essence of the partnership between the Israeli Government and Jewish leaders in the Diaspora should revolve around ensuring that together we contribute $2 million per day to save the Jewish people. I hope that when we create thee next budget, one of its cornerstones will be the allocation of $365 million for this program. This is something that my party, Yisrael Beytenu, will be very active in promoting.”

“We need a strong response to the looming demographic catastrophe and we need direct investment in our Jewish youth to ensure that they remain Jewish and acquire the tools to remain part of a vibrant Jewish community. I would like to accomplish this vision that I have laid out today and not merely say that I have a dream and then walk away happy that my words made some headlines.”

“However, the creation of an international network of Jewish schools is only the first part of my vision,” he said. “In addition, my goal is to bring an additional 3.5 million Jews from the Diaspora in the next ten years so that the Jewish population in Israel will exceed 10 million.”

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